Tag Archives: alternative

Starmer’s dilemma: he’s not an alternative to the Tories and he isn’t even interesting

Stiff as a board: Keir Starmer simply isn’t interesting – and he doesn’t have any policies worth supporting.

The opinion polls suggest a landslide general election victory for the Labour Party – not because Keir Starmer’s policies are any good but because people are so sick of the Tories that any old rubbish will seem better.

It is likely to have the lowest turnout, as a percentage of the electorate, of any election since universal suffrage was introduced, meaning there will be strong arguments that whichever party forms the next government will not have a mandate and proportional representation should be introduced to restore power to the people.

The problem is that any government formed by Starmer will be as right-wing as Rishi Sunak’s, with policies that are indistinguishable from those of Sunak’s administration. In other words, none of Starmer’s policies will work either.

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And the UK’s electorate doesn’t turn out to elect right-wing governments. We don’t like them.

Consider the following:

So election expert Professor John Curtice reckons, “None of [the party leaders] enthuse the electorate, none of them are popular, all of them are regarded as dull as dishwater… So what’s the point of turning out to vote? If we give people a reason to vote, they’ll turn out.”

But people don’t have a reason to vote.

And Ruth Wodak said: “If there is a good opposition, if there’s an alternative programme, you might have a chance [to defeat far-right populism]… One has to provide alternatives, provide more participation so that citizens feel that they are acknowledged and that their worries are being taken seriously.”

There isn’t a good opposition. There isn’t an alternative programme. Keir Starmer has removed all his alternatives and cut back on participation – because, at heart, he is a Conservative cuckoo in the Labour nest.

Oh, he keeps pretending to offer more participation – here’s his current pledge:

But you can be sure it will be withdrawn long before anybody expects it to be put into practice, just like all Labour’s other pledges under Starmer’s leadership.

The UK needs alternatives – and we won’t get them from Labour or any of the other mainstream parties.

That’s why I am advising everyone to actually find out what the candidates in your constituency are planning to do, if they are lucky enough to be elected.

That is what party manifestos are for. Independent candidates also have policy documents and they will all be online for you to find and read.

You need to find and read these policy documents, and then you need to make a dispassionate choice, based on what you have read.

Which of the candidates offers the most policies that fit what you need? And, by that, I mean: who will improve your own life the most?

Do not consider how other people will vote, either in your constituency or the other 649 around the UK. That is not your concern.

It is not for you to worry about which party will get enough votes to actually enact its policies. This will lead you down the usual garden path to voting in a government that won’t do anything at all for the good of the country, like the one we’ve had since 2010.

BE SELFISH. Bizarrely, it might be the only way to get the kind of government that all of us need.


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Stephen Fry’s ‘alternative Christmas message’ sparks controversy

Selling his soul? Stephen Fry, that much loved institution of British comedy, seems to have swallowed a propaganda line that anti-Semitism in the UK has risen massively in response to Israel’s genocide in Gaza. Has it? And while any such behaviour is clearly racist and therefore wrong, why did he fail to take the opportunity to denounce the Gaza genocide?

Much-loved institution of British comedy Stephen Fry may have given himself a shot in the foot after he fronted a so-called ‘alternative’ Christmas message that was little more than a bare-faced attempt to make Israel’s genocide in Gaza look respectable.

The usual apologists and propagandists were quick to promote the much-loved etc etc’s little film – only to be debunked by the usual critics – but the broadcast itself is included in the ‘X’ post below so you can experience it yourself:

In fact there are certain elements of much loved etc etc’s speech with which This Writer would certainly agree: for example, that all forms of race hatred are wrong, and that Jewish people in the UK shouldn’t be attacked over what Israelis who happen to share their ethnic origin have been doing.

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But there are a few inaccuracies that crept into the speech and slanted it in an unacceptable direction. Here’s David Rosenberg, who is as Jewish as Stephen Fry:

You can’t immediately see all of Jackie Walker’s ‘X’ post below, to which Sue Jones responds, so I’ll quote it here: “Anti Jewish racism should be combatted at all levels, but the recent fashion for Jewish comedians to use their extensive platforms to suggest antisemitism is not given due attention, while at the same time not mentioning the extraordinary level of state and media support for the fight against Jew hate, as compared to any other racism, is a fraud. But to then use this argument to undermine those fighting against a genocidal state is just unforgivable.”

Ms Jones responds:

Strong words. Are they supported by the evidence of the much loved etc etc’s broadcast?

Well…

The following is anecdotal, but I wonder how many other British Jews have had the same experience:

Others have been harsher in their criticisms of the broadcast and of Fry himself:

It seems posts like the above sparked an interest in investigating Fry’s own activities and attitudes.

It seems that, in 2008, he signed a letter refusing to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary, calling it “a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land” – all of which, by failing to denounce what Israel is doing in Gaza now, he currently appears to support:

Why did he change his opinion? The following suggestion is extreme but I, for one, would like to know what reason Fry himself provides.

I pass the following on without comment; you may wish to research it for yourself:

And it seems the short film was produced by Zionists who are linked to the Israel Defence Force that is responsible for the genocide in Gaza:

The full post by MintPress News states: “The producers of Stephen Fry’s controversial Christmas message were members of a Zionist youth group that funnels members into the Israeli military. Fulwell73 was founded by Leo Pearlman, Benjamin Turner, Gabe Turner, and Ben Winston. All of whom were members of the Zionist youth group B’nei Akiva, which runs pre-military programmes to enrol members in the Israeli occupation forces. They have also spoken at events for the Israel lobby group, the Jewish Leadership Council.”

Again, I pass this on without comment.

Others have simply pointed to the alternative “alternative Christmas message”, that was provided by Fry’s fellow Jewish comedian, much loved institution of British comedy Alexei Sayle.

This was not broadcast on television, but was instead made available on the social media. You may draw your own conclusions about why one got wider distribution to the public while the other did not.

Here it is:

Which message do you prefer?

Or do they both have merit?


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These social media posts tell you the UK is in big trouble

The United Kingdom is often described as a two-party state – meaning that one of only two domestic political parties can win a general election and form a government.

If that is true, then the UK is in big trouble because neither of the two largest parties here – Conservative or Labour – is fit to govern in their current form and under their current leaders.

If you want the proof, look to the public and find out what they’re saying. Here’s just a smattering of comments about both Labour and the Tories, based on current events, from the social media:

My personal conclusion is in my reply to the Tory berk who wrote the following post:

The simple yardstick for all of the above is the different parties’ policies.

Do either Labour or the Conservatives have any policies that you want to see inflicted on you, personally? Did they have any policies you wanted and supported, only to find that party leaders reneged on them? Do you honestly think you can trust them?

If not, you need to find someone else.

Who are the other political organisations in your constituency? What are their policies?

There is always someone better out there. Find them.


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What is Keir Starmer trying to do in Islington North?

Overstatement: Jeremy Corbyn is a serious man and is unlikely to have laughed when told the boss of a private healthcare firm was being lined up to replace him in Islington North, by Keir Starmer. Considering the strength of feeling for him in that constituency, though… you have to admit, it is a bit giggle-worthy.

If this, from Skwawkbox, is true, then it suggests that Keir Starmer is out of his mind.

Apparently he thinks it’s a good idea to try to take Islington North – described by its residents as “Corbyn country” – at the next election with a candidate who runs a chain of private health clinics:

Praful Nargund, who runs a chain of fertility clinics with his consultant gynaecologist mother and is also a councillor in Islington, is also listed on Companies House as a current or former director of six other companies, mostly in private health. His website features a picture of him with Keir Starmer and says that Nargund wants to ‘champion a skills revolution’.

Meanwhile, on the day after Starmer had his NEC vote to bar Mr Corbyn from standing as a Labour candidate in any future general election – and Islington North Labour Party rejected the decision, top polling firm Survation has stated – well, see for yourself:

Meanwhile Starmer’s lieutenants are doing the media rounds with their story – and it’s more of a fairy tale – about anti-Semitism.

Wes Streeting told the Huffington Post: “If he had accepted the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s damning verdict into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party… things might have been different.”

But Streeting was lying; Mr Corbyn did accept the EHRC’s verdict (which wasn’t nearly as damning as Streeting claimed).

And what of the man himself?

He has thanked everybody who has sent him messages of support, which he described as “kind”.

And he stated: “Those who oppose radical change are attacking our democratic rights for a simple reason: they know that when we come together, we can win”

Considering the challenge Keir Starmer seems to be presenting to him, it seems unlikely that Mr Corbyn will lose in Islington North during a general election.

Source: Private health CEO lined up to try to take Corbyn’s seat for Starmer – SKWAWKBOX


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Is it time for governments to guard against the collapse of social media – and other online – firms?


The takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk has created a huge upheaval in the corporation, with many financial supporters and users either leaving it or planning to do so.

There are widespread fears that it may collapse.

Other large firms, that similarly dominate our online lives, are at similar risk of takeover and destruction – calamities that would threaten our current way of life.

What is to be done about it?

I copy below a thread by economist Richard Murphy, who believes that governments should act to create similar systems that are publicly funded and free from commercial interference.

Before you read that, consider this: way back in 2020, I published an article quoting an Australian (I think) magazine that said the UK’s mass media had been complicit in lying to the nation about the Boris Johnson government’s efforts to deal with Covid-19.

It stated that the only people questioning the then-government’s behaviour were independent, social media sites (like Vox Political) and called for them to be supported.

Instead, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have squeezed us hard. This Site’s Facebook page has more than 42,000 followers – but only around 350 ever get to see any single post.

I am shown adverts calling for me to spend £14 to send them to a couple of hundred more readers, but there is no guarantee that they are followers of the page, or even interested in UK politics at all.

On Twitter, I have more than 10,000 followers currently – but, again, only a few of them ever see my tweets.

This is clear interference in the performance of my business, that takes advantage of the need to promote my site via the social media.

So my question is this: is it time to set up publicly-funded alternatives to Twitter, Google and so on, simply to re-establish a level playing field for businesses?

Here’s the Richard Murphy thread:

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‘Out of touch’ Tory minister describes £170 Champagne as ‘alternative vaccine’ (Vox Political Scrapbook)

A Conservative minister has been branded “out of touch” after suggesting people … drown the sorrows of 2020 with a £170 bottle of champagne.

Amidst an economic recession and global pandemic, minister for housing Christopher Pincher … described Krug Grand Cru Cuvée as an “alternative vaccine” against the “memory of last year”.

In an article for conservative culture magazine The Critic, the minister wrote that a bottle of the wine was “ideal for lifting the spirit and lighting up a darkening winter afternoon,” noting its flavours of “tart satsuma” and “light, tight, nutty effervescence”.

Labour’s Mike Amesbury, shadow minister for housing, described Mr Pincher as “truly out of touch and breathtakingly arrogant.”

Source: ‘Truly out of touch’: Tory minister suggests drowning coronavirus sorrows with £170 Champagne

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Rees-Mogg’s ‘Brexit Plan B’ falls apart – because it WON’T WORK

The incompetence is hilarious – and some Tories thought Jacob Rees-Mogg could be ‘prime minister’ material!

Look at this:

Conservative Eurosceptics are on the back foot after their plan to publish a detailed blueprint for the UK’s relationship with the EU fell apart.

Tory Eurosceptics last week circulated a 140-page draft Brexit plan, which was meant to prove to Mrs May that they had a fully worked-up alternative blueprint, rooted in a trade deal similar to the one signed between Canada and the EU in 2016.

But Jacob Rees-Mogg, head of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, which led the work on the plan and counts as many as 80 Eurosceptic Conservative MPs among its members, said on Monday that the full document would not be published.

“The truth is that we reconsidered,” he said.

The truth is that he realised his plan wouldn’t work.

Now his European Research Group party-within-a-party will be reduced to bitching about individual issues.

The collapse of this plan will have no bearing on Theresa May’s ‘Chequers’ plan which has already fallen apart, having failed to find favour with Conservative backbenchers.

We should not be surprised at these developments.

All Conservative efforts with regard to Brexit are just attempts to play for time.

They intend to wait until the very last possible moment, and then make a deal that forces the very worst possible conditions on the working people of the UK.

Source: Conservative Eurosceptics fail to agree on Brexit plan B | Financial Times

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Labour MPs call for change in party policy – LabourList

Off the rails: Should railway companies be renationalised in the national interest?

Off the rails: Should railway companies be renationalised in the national interest?

A group of 15 Labour MPs have issued a public statement this morning, expressing concern about elements of Labour’s policy agenda, and urging a change of course in three key areas, according to LabourList.

The letter – signed by MPs on the left of the Parliamentary Labour Party – calls for an alternative to Labour’s current deficit reduction plans, public ownership of the railways and a return to collective bargaining and employment rights in the workplace.

Here’s the statement in full, which outlines the signatories preferred alternative approach:

1 An alternative to the continuation of austerity and spending cuts till 2019-20

All three main parties, tragically, seem to agree that deep spending cuts must continue to be made until the structural budget deficit is wiped out in 2019-20, even though wages have already fallen 8% in real terms, business investment is still below pre-crash levels, unemployment is still 2million, the trade deficit in manufactured goods at over £100bn is now the largest in modern history, and household debt is now over £2trillion and still rising.

The Tories want to continue with these cuts because it gives them political cover to achieve their real objective which is to shrink the State and squeeze the public sector back to where it was in the 1930s.

It isn’t even as though the deficit is being reduced by these savage cuts. Because the reduction in the government’s tax revenues as a result of shrinking incomes exceed the spending cuts, the deficit (which is still nearly £100bn) is likely to rise, not fall, in 2014-15 and in future years.

There is an alternative way out of endless austerity. We need public investment to kickstart the economy out of faltering growth and to generate real job creation and rising incomes.

It can readily be funded. With interest rates at 0.5%, a £30bn investment package can be financed for just £150m a year, enough to create more than a million real jobs within 2-3 years. And even without any increase in public borrowing at all, the same sum could equally be funded either through the two banks which are already in public ownership, or through printing money (quantitative easing) to be used directly for industrial investment rather than for bond-buying by the banks as hitherto, or through taxing the ultra-rich by a special levy.

2 Returning rail franchises when expired to public ownership rather than subjecting them to competition

The essence of rail reform must be to reverse fragmentation, to reintegrate the system under public ownership, and to run it in the public interest. At present Britain has the highest fares in Europe. The additional costs of privatisation to public funds are estimated at more than £11bn, or around £1.2bn a year, so that the costs to the taxpayer are now three times as much as under British Rail.

Since 2010 rail fares have increased 25%, yet at the same time more than £200m a year has been paid out in dividends to shareholders or overseas state-owned rail companies which now hold two-thirds of the current rail franchises. Over 80% of the public want the railways re-nationalised, which must include a significant proportion of Tories.

The most obvious and simplest way to achieve this is by letting the rail franchises expire and then taking them back into public ownership at no cost whatever to the taxpayer. To subject them to a public bidding competition with private bidders is not only wholly unnecessary but sends out the wrong signals, as though we’re not confident of our own ideology. The Tories certainly didn’t offer a competitive option when they forced through privatisation!

Anyway, the franchise process, so far from being economic, encourages the gaming of wildly optimistic passenger number projections and this, combined with huge legal contract complexity which is bureaucratic and wasteful both in time and money (except for the lawyers and accountants), has led in the past to franchise failures and operating chaos, most notably on the East and West Coast lines. From past experience public ownership has consistently worked better, and we should not gratuitously throw obstacles in our own path in getting there.

3 The need for the restoration of collective bargaining and employment rights as a check against excessive corporate power

When the Thatcher government came to office in 1979, 82% of workers in the UK had their main terms and conditions determined by a union-negotiated collective agreement. The latest figures now show that the coverage is down to just 23%. One very significant result is that the share of national income going to salaries and wages has fallen dramatically from 65% in 1980 to 53% in 2012 – a loss to employees of some £180bn!

This has happened partly from the collapse in trade union membership from 55% of the workforce in 1979 to 23% in 2012. But it has also happened partly as a result of the anti-trade union laws introduced in the 1980-90s and partly because the state has withdrawn support for collective bargaining as part of the free market ideology of de-regulation of all markets, including the labour market. It is somewhat ironic however that de-regulation of the labour market requires the tightest regulation of one of the key players in that market, the trade union movement.

An incoming Labour government should choose to enhance the role of trade unions because trade union rights are human rights, a trade union presence creates more just and equal workplaces, and trade union collective bargaining is more redistributive than statutory wage setting and will assist on the road from austerity. We should therefore actively promote sectoral collective bargaining and strengthen the rights of trade unions to recognition, and of their members to representation.

Diane Abbott
Dave Anderson
Katy Clark
Jeremy Corbyn
Fabian Hamilton
Kelvin Hopkins
Ian Lavery
John McDonnell
Michael Meacher
Ian Mearns
Grahame Morris
Linda Riordan
Steve Rotherham
Jim Sheridan
Chris Williamson

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NHS privatisation: Are there ANY ‘qualified providers’?

zcoalitionfailNHS

Qualify v. To give eligibility.

It seems there are very few, if any ‘qualified providers’ from the private sector currently working in the English National Health Service, according to the latest issue of Private Eye (#1382, p38).

It states: “When the government decided to flog off large chunks of the NHS, it insisted that private providers must ‘qualify and register’ before being allowed to offer NHS-funded services.

“But the NHS regulator Monitor never carried out the promised ‘assurance process’ to test whether providers were suitable or not. It confirmed that it held no register of ‘any qualified providers’ and a spokesman even said it would ‘love to know where there is a list’.

“Monitor only licenses organisations that hold NHS contracts worth more than £10 million a year. This leaves the vast majority of smaller ‘alternative’ providers and non-profit businesses unchecked.

“NHS England doesn’t check them either. Not only does it not hold any list, but it has also stopped providing support to local clinical commissioning groups to enable them to check the credentials of companies that are bidding for contracts. It has closed its online ‘Any Qualified Provider Resource Centre’, along with the Supply2Health website which at least listed contracts and current providers.

“All that can be found after a determined trawl through the Care Quality Commission website is a cobbled-together list of 41 mainly small-care providers, many of which have not been inspected, leaving the issue of whether they are ‘qualified’ open to question.

“Responsibility for deciding who ‘qualifies’ to carry out NHS work falls therefore not on those who are supposed to scrutinise and regulate NHS services but on local health purchasers. As the Health and Social Care Act doesn’t define what ‘qualified’ means, health ministers have neatly opened up a postcode lottery in healthcare when certain companies may be accepted as qualified by some local commissioning groups, but not others.”

In fact, it’s worse even than that.

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were sold to the public on the premise that they would be composed of doctors – mainly GPs. But the CCGs’ own management teams are in fact steered by private sector consultants – McKinsey, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Capita, you know the names because they belong to all the usual suspects (see NHS SOS, Jacky Davis & Raymond Tallis (editors), pp24-25). Some of these organisations provide their own healthcare services, creating an opportunity for corruption that makes utter nonsense of the assurance ‘no decision about me, without me’ made by Andrew Lansley when he was pushing the Health and Social Care Act through Parliament.

So, if you live in England and you are told you need a health service that is only offered by a private provider – you demand to see proof that they are qualified to run the service. Who checked them? To what standard? Don’t be fobbed off with an assurance that the CCG has given them the thumbs-up – ask what organisation advised the CCG. Get to the bottom of the matter.

You might find that your ‘qualified provider’ doesn’t have any qualifications at all.

And then who’s liable if your treatment goes wrong?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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It’s time to kill off claims that Labour started the Bedroom Tax

Homeless: The Bedroom Tax has forced the eviction of an ever-growing number of social tenants. How many people have been evicted because of Local Housing Allowance?

Homeless: The Bedroom Tax has forced the eviction of an ever-growing number of social tenants. How many people have been evicted because of Local Housing Allowance?

It seems every debate on the brutal Tory Bedroom Tax has lately been overshadowed by some ill-informed commentator claiming that the Labour Party cannot oppose the measure because it imposed its own version of the same thing on the private rented sector, years ago.

Such a claim was made on the Vox Political Facebook page yesterday (Thursday) and Yr Obdt Srvt promised to seek out the facts.

Thanks to today’s debate on the Affordable Housing Bill, there was no need to look very far.

As mentioned in the debate, Labour imposed the Local Housing Allowance in order to stop private tenants from abusing the Housing Benefit system by moving into accommodation that was larger than they could afford – remember, private rented accommodation is more expensive than social housing – and forcing the taxpayer to fund the difference.

Labour’s measure was imposed only on people moving into privately rented accommodation after the LHA law was enacted.

So, for example, a single person might choose to take a place with two bedrooms. Before LHA was brought in, they could claim housing benefit on the property and rely on the taxpayer to stump up for the extra space. LHA means they get the money required for what they need – and they have to pay for the extra space. This is fair because moving into the larger property was their choice.

As with ordinary housing benefit, if a tenant’s circumstances change for the better, the amount of benefit payable is reduced. Why should a private tenant expect preferential treatment?

It seems that private landlords, who have been charging more than they should, have been angered by the imposition of the LHA and have chosen to wage a propaganda war against it, claiming that it is the Bedroom Tax by another name. Note that they are not against the Bedroom Tax, because it drives social housing tenants to the private sector.

Compare that with the Bedroom Tax. The Tories have imposed a charge on people who are living in social housing that was allocated to them on the basis of their need and the accommodation that was available; it is not the tenants’ fault if the only available accommodation was larger than they needed (more appropriate dwellings had probably been sold off under a previous Tory government’s ‘Right To Buy’ scheme).

The Conservative Bedroom Tax was imposed retrospectively – that is, it affected people who were already sitting tenants rather than those moving into accommodation. It was not intended to combat abuse of the system but was simply a way of robbing social tenants of help that they needed.

And the Bedroom Tax was imposed in the knowledge that the amount of alternative accommodation available to social tenants who needed to downsize in order to avoid the charge was only a fraction of what was needed. These people were trapped by this cruel legislation and driven into debt – in stark contrast to the Labour legislation which only affected people choosing to move into accommodation that was larger than they needed.

There is a huge difference between the Local Housing Allowance and the Bedroom Tax.

Any claims that they are similar must be rooted either in stupidity or in politically-motivated malice.

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